It is a great privilege to walk with my church through the book of 1 Samuel on Wednesday evenings. Last night we spent some time considering Hannah, whom we meet in chapter 1. This godly woman was barren, unable to conceive a child. In the midst of her great longing to be a mother, she prays one of the most shocking prayers in the Bible:
She was deeply distressed and prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly. And she vowed a vow and said, “O LORD of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.” (1 Samuel 1:10–11)
It is shocking, because the thing that she desperately wants is the thing she offers to give away. She vows that her son will be under a lifelong Nazarite vow and that this son will grow up not with her, but in God’s sanctuary/temple in Shiloh. As a Nazarite, her son would be set apart not for her exclusive enjoyment and pleasure, but for special service to God and His priorities and pleasure. Hannah’s desire for a child, strong as it is, has become eclipsed by her desire for God’s greater glory and purposes. Charles Spurgeon notes that:
“Hannah had learned self-denial. This is clear, since the very prayer by which she hoped to escape out of her great grief was a self-denying one. She desired a son, so that her reproach might be removed; but if her eyes might be blessed with such a sight she would cheerfully resign her darling to be the Lord’s as long as he lived. Mothers wish to keep their children around them. It is natural that they should wish to see them often. But Hannah, when most eager for a son, asking, for only one, and that one as the special gift of God, yet does not seek him for herself, but for her God…
Her heart does not long to see her boy at home, his father’s daily pride, and her own hourly solace, but to see him serving as a Levite in the house of the Lord. By this she proved that she had learned self-denial. Brothers and sisters, this is one of our hardest lessons: to learn to give up what we most prize at the command of God, and to do so cheerfully. This is real self-denial, when we ourselves make the proposition, and offer the sacrifice freely, as she did. To desire a blessing so that we may have the opportunity of parting with it, this is self-conquest: have we reached it? Oh you of a sorrowful spirit, if you have learned to crucify the flesh, if you have learned to subdue the body, if you have learned to cast all your desires and wills at his feet, you have gained what a thousand times repays you for all the losses and crosses you have suffered.”
Hannah is truly an inspiration in this sense. True life is not found in holding on tightly to the things we treasure, but in being willing to release any other treasure in order that we can better lay hold of God, His glory, and His purposes above all else, because He is our true and highest treasure. Oh may the Lord help me to live in this way!
Grace and Peace,